So there is no question, right, that there are a lot more teachers using blogs and wikis and Read/Write Web tools today than ever before. And even though most people still report huge obstacles standing in the way regarding implementation of these technologies in their classrooms, it just feels like the winds are starting, ever so slightly, to shift in a different direction. (And no, I don’t think this is a “tail wind” from the EduBloggerCon love fest we just had in Atlanta.) More people are opening up to the conversation.
But here’s the thing that’s been sticking with me of late. For all of the talk about Classroom 2.0 and School 2.0 and Addyourwordhere 2.0, there still isn’t much talk about what fuels the 2.0…the network.
A couple of purposely vague examples. I listened to a presentation of late that attempted to define School 2.0 and did so pretty much solely on the grounds that we can have our students create and publish meaningful work to the world. Now I have absolutely no problem with infusing these tools into classrooms to allow kids to publish what they know to large audiences. That’s a great first step. But that’s not School 2.0 (is it?) And in another conversation I had recently with someone who is doing some really interesting implementations of social technologies into her district, the main success was that her teachers and students were now able to communicate more effectively with each other and parents. That’s not it either (is it?)
I know I visited this theme a couple of weeks ago at NECC, but in the time since, it feels like it’s been jumping out at me more and more. (Except when I was on the beach where even the fish weren’t jumping.) I’ve been trying of late to convince folks that until they understand the uses of these tools in their own learning practice they’ll be really hard pressed to deliver the different pedagogies that go along with them in compelling and effective ways. Yes, we can have kids create movies and podcasts and wikis and all sorts of artifacts that have meaningful purposes and messages. And yes that’s all good, but at the end of the day, all that’s about is being able to use the tool to do the same stuff we’ve done in the past only put it into a new form and offer it to a wider audience. The pedagogies haven’t changed.
But here is the bigger question, I think. Through teaching them to use these tools to publish, are we also teaching them how to use these tools to continue the learning once that project is over? Can they continue to explore and reflect on the ideas that those artifacts represent regardless of who is teaching the next class? Can they connect with that audience not simply in the ways that books connect to readers (read but no write) but in the ways that allow them to engage and explore more deeply with an ongoing, growing community of learners? Isn’t that the real literacy here?
It’s not just the Read/Write Web, is it? It’s more than that. (Someone already came to this conclusion a while back, I know, but I can’t dig it out right now.) It’s the Read/Write/Connect/Reflect Web as well. It is, in the words of Jay Cross in his book Informal Learning (which I’ll have more to write about later,) the “Learning is Optimizing the Quality of One’s Networks” Web. I love this other quote by Jay as well:
“What can you do” has been replaced by “What can you and your network connections do?” Knowledge is moving from the individual to the individual and his contacts. (18)
He’s right. This is our “outboard brain”. This is the power that the publishing facilitates. And this is what we need to get the conversation to, now that the tools have “arrived”.